COHA: Dominican Republic – The Legacy of Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez

  • One of the courageous and gallant heroes in the Dominican Republic’s history played a key role in the 1965 uprising against the military dictatorship
  • Called upon the world to condemn racism and human rights abuses

Pen?a-Go?mez.jpgThe woeful mutual history of the Dominican Republic and Haiti (which share the island of Hispaniola) is tainted with bloodshed as a result of tectonic political and racial tensions involving them over the decades. However, intertwining the two, was Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, a Dominican national of dark skin and Haitian ancestry, who would eventually become revered as one of the most prominent and best loved Dominican political figures of the twentieth century.

Born on March 6, 1937, his life became centered on politics long before he worked his way up to become the leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). During a political career filled with heartbreaks, disappointments and failures, Peña Gómez was nominated three-times as a candidate to be the Dominican president and mayor of the capital, Santo Domingo. But above all, Peña Gómez’s battle against racial constraints and anti-Haitian bigotry that were perpetually used to deter him from his lifetime mission of winning the presidency and then using it to recreate a Dominican Republic which for the first time would be at the service of its citizenry. Although repeatedly denied the presidency of his country, without exception, he became one of the most outstanding black political figures in all of Latin America and the Caribbean, and a true hero in the hemisphere.

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COHA: The Cuban Who Won’t Be in Trinidad

  • Raúl Castro’s Cuban shuffle: a cause for widespread speculation
  • Havana upstages Washington in the ‘change’ stakes, as Obama lamentably opts for minimal reforms
  • Rather than a roar, Washington comes forth with a whimper when it comes to a new Cuba policy
  • Two once highly regarded heir-apparents summarily dismissed last month
  • Raúl reinforces his position by strengthening cabinet with military cronies
  • An ideological shift or a streamlining of bureaucracy?
  • A fallen Mexican foreign minister comes up with a likely tall tale that claims that dismissed Cuban officials allegedly plotted with Hugo Chávez to oust Raúl

On March 2, Raúl Castro shocked the international community by dismissing Felipe Pérez Roque and Carlos Lage, two of the most highly regarded officials in his government. This action comes as a sign that he is intent on reforming the troubled administration he inherited from his brother Fidel in February 2008. Raúl’s actions compare favorably to the moves made by the Obama administration in Washington in the run-up to this weekend’s Summit of the Americas. While the Cuban leader has demonstrated flexibility and emerged as a harbinger of change, Obama has instead taken the most conservative approach possible towards modifying the U.S.-Cuban relationship, by calling for unadventurous legislation on Monday, April 13. It went no further than merely revoking provisions implemented by President Bush as an act of vindication by the White House that restricted travel and remittances for Cuban Americans. Havana is advancing the prospects for constructive engagement while Washington shows little sign of budging beyond its minimalist policy, a fact which may be hard for Obama to justify when he arrives in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday.

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George Galloway writes to the Charity Commission

14th April 2009 | Viva Palestina Email Alert

To the Charity Commission,
I have been travelling for many weeks in North Africa and the Middle East, Europe, and North America. I have returned to a London address I seldom visit to find a blizzard of correspondence from you. Your correspondence, when read together, as I have just done, seems to represent a wildly disproportionate and inappropriate reaction to our recent delivery of aid to the suffering Palestinians in Gaza, and must raise the question: Why?
The peremptory letters from you, and by you I mean the Charity Commission, are full of bluster and threat, issuing absurd deadlines to people it does not seem to occur to you are not even receiving your letters, either because they are working abroad (Ms Razuki and Mr Al-Mukhtar), travelling abroad on high profile political business (myself), or you are writing to them at the wrong address.

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Elda Molina Díaz, “Cuba: Economic Restructuring, Recent Trends and Major Challenges”


The collapse of the European socialist block at the end of the 1980s caused a deep crisis in the Cuban economy. One of the distinctive features of the process of adjustment and reform of the Cuban economy carried out by the government was that even during the worst period of the crisis, the Revolution’s main social achievements in education, healthcare and social security were preserved. At the same time, the measures introduced by the government succeeded in the following areas: resumption of economic growth; sectoral diversification and reinsertion into the world markets; and partial correction of some key internal economic imbalances. While the government is involved in the design of several economic policy measures to face the remaining challenges, the preservation of the social achievements and the prevalence of state property in most relevant economic sectors have been confirmed as key strategic principles.

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No Coincidences in Iraq by Dahr Jamail

13 April, 2009 | T r u t h o u t

Following George W. Bush’s example of keeping war funding off the books, President Barack Obama is seeking $83.4 billion in additional “emergency” funding for the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which, if approved, would bring the 2009 funding to around $150 billion and the overall costs of the two wars to nearly $1 trillion.

Obama was a harsh critic of the Bush administration tactic of avoiding placing the costs of both occupations in the overall military budget, yet now he is doing the same. This latest request is in addition to a $534 billion military budget the administration unveiled earlier in the week. That budget was for fiscal 2010, and was an increase over the last Bush administration military budget from 2009.

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Sudan: Alex de Waal, "Saviors and Survivors"


Mahmood Mamdani’s Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror is the most ambitious book yet on the Darfur crisis. Unlike the vast majority of other writing on the crisis, which is political science, human rights, or ethnographic narrative, specific to the Darfurian or the Sudanese situation, Mamdani places Darfur in deep and broad world-historical contexts.

The historical account is deep in that Mamdani sees the Darfur war less as the outcome of the immediate political grievances of Darfurians and the Sudan Government’s specific objectives, but rather as the product of long encounter between the colonial and neo-colonial powers and Africa. His account describes how under the independent Sultanate, Darfurian society was adopting administrative and social structures that transcended and down-played ethnic identities, but the colonial encounter — brief but profound — created administrative tribalism and a racial hierarchy. Mamdani argues that the legacy of this intrusion and distortion, as it played out especially in the system of land ownership based on tribally-owned dars, can be seen in the recurrent internal wars in Darfur from 1987 to 1999 and the wider war that erupted in 2003.

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COHA: Summit of the Americas: Obama Goes to Trinidad

  • President Obama travels to Trinidad on April 17 with a unique opportunity to redefine U.S.-Latin American relations
  • The time for taking stock is over, and the U.S. must present a coherent plan composed of inclusiveness, constructive engagement and a definitive end to a Cold War mentality to its southern neighbors
  • In the absence of a seasoned Latin Americanist in the White House, Washington may well struggle to meet even minimal expectations
  • The reconstruction of a meaningful inter-American relationship must involve the dismantling of the Cuban embargo and Washington’s singling out Cuba for special treatment
  • The world knows that there are scores of worse human rights violators than Cuba, over which the White House loses no sleep

President Barack Obama will travel to Trinidad and Tobago on April 17 with the opportunity to define the approach his administration will take towards Latin America. The region’s presidents, many of whom enthusiastically welcomed Obama’s election in November, now must hope that the new leader in the White House makes more use of this unique forum than was the case with his predecessor. George Bush’s approach to the 2005 Summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina, was to render it more an occasion for exchanging mutual insults than for carrying on meaningful dialogue on a regional policy that would pay off for all concerned. Obama now has the chance to resurrect the Summit of the Americas as an effective forum, and with it promote the prospects for much needed hemisphere-wide cooperation.

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